Emomali Rahmon, who’s been the leader of Tajikistan since 1992, has some strong opinions about names:
“I pay close attention to surnames and names when I appoint anyone to a leading post in the government,” Mr Rahmon told a group of children in speech televised on national TV.
“Sometimes, reading surnames can make one shudder,” he said.
“For example, Gurgakov comes from the word ‘wolf’. Janjoliyev derives from the word ‘conflict’,” said Mr Rahmon, the father of seven daughters and two sons.
Names must be beautiful because they play an important role in determining a person’s destiny from birth, he said.
“How can you name a person after a wolf?”
Currently, Rahmon is trying to get his country to adopt regulations that would greatly restrict birth names.
The proposed amendments to Tajikistan’s civil-registry law would make it illegal to “register names that are incorrect or alien to the local culture, including names denoting objects, flora and fauna, as well as names of Arabic origin.”
In fact, some registrars have already begun rejecting these types of names.
The part about banning Arabic-origin names has gotten a lot of attention because Tajikistan is overwhelmingly Muslim, and most of the popular baby names in the country right now are of Arabic origin: Sumayah, Asiya, Aisha, Muhammad, Yusuf, Abubakr, etc. (Rahmon’s own name would’t have passed muster under the new law — Emomali is derived from “Imam Ali.”)
Ultimately, Rahmon is interested in promoting (forcing?) the usage of “pure Tajik” names, including those from classical Persian literature. Examples of this type of name include Dilafruz, Firdaus, Firuz, Rustam and Tahmina.
Hopefully the ethnic Uzbeks that make up 15% of Tajikistan’s population won’t be forced to use Tajik names as well…
P.S. The woman who would have been Rahmon’s most serious opposition candidate in the 2013 election (if she’d been allowed to run) has a very interesting first name: Oinihol (also spelled Oynihol). Anybody know anything about it?